Community Spotlight: We Plan out the Kitchen Garden

For some reason, community garden projects always strike a chord with me. Perhaps it’s the combination of meeting new people, gushing about our plant catastrophes and triumphs, and learning in a low-pressure environment about how to grow our own that makes volunteering at such places so attractive.

Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses

One of my favourite community gardens (and the first that I discovered in London) is definitely Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses (BPCG). Nestled on the lush rolling hill of Brockwell Park, this garden space always seems to welcome everyone through its wide-open gates. Community members big or small can be found strolling around the greenhouses and beds, keen woodworkers are always creating masterpieces out of wood, and volunteers are busily weeding and tidying.

Getting the kitchen garden in shape!

The warm community feeling I get often comes from participating in the valuable monthly and weekly workshops. Today’s workshop theme “The Kitchen Garden” meant that we focused on planning the vegetables and flowers to be grown this year. January is a great time to reflect on the previous year’s successes and failures, and be choosy about what to plant next time around. Chris, an active member of BPCG, shared with us which vegetables would be going in the ground for the 1st and 2nd harvest, as well as good flowers to sow for amenity.

Some good crops to start propagating now are chillies and early tomatoes. Potatoes can be chitted from the end of January. Kris showed us a black bin where he will plant the potatoes this year. Seems like a solid idea, as long as you don’t forget to add drainage holes at the bottom.

One of the volunteers had been propagating pak choi on a commercial scale. There were seed trays of this Chinese green at different weeks of growth, all perfectly spaced out and healthy! Definitely, one for my wish list.

Propagation can be done in a greenhouse for those lucky enough to have the space or even inside on a windowsill. The idea is to keep the seed trays at a constantly warm temperature, around 25 degrees Celsius, and provide supplemental light in the short winter days with an extra lamp. This should help a lot of the seeds germinate early.

Other than seed trays, seed modules also work well for propagating and make the job of transplanting into the ground easier. Firstly, you don’t have to pot on into a larger container, as you would from a seed tray. And secondly, you can release the mature seedling easily from its module by squeezing the bottom.

After a tour of the vegetable garden and a friendly cuppa tea in the small volunteer kitchen, we set off to work in the edible garden. There were garlic bulbs to plant, broad beans to thin, and daffodils to move.

My favourite part was watching weeds being blow-torched — a little task cleverly saved by a keen gardener and mom for her bored teenager.

I really enjoyed my time and met a few fellow allotment owners who are way more experienced than me. They seemed to agree that I was crazy for getting a 250m² allotment a 40-minute drive away. “Overly ambitious”? Perhaps. We shall see!

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